"Once we're able to go outside, we're going to find our island destroyed," Puerto Rico Emergency Management Director Abner Gomez Cortes warned after Hurricane Maria lashed the island Wednesday, destroying hundreds of homes and turning roadways into rivers. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for the entire territory, where authorities say the storm, the strongest to hit the island, knocked out electricity for 100% of customers, NBC News reports. The latest:
- Gov. Ricardo Rossello, calling the storm a major disaster, imposed a 6am to 6pm curfew on the island, citing the danger of floods. The storm is expected to dump 20 to 30 inches of rain on the island Friday.
- The storm moved toward the east coast of the Dominican Republic early Thursday and is expected to hit the Turks and Caicos islands later in the day, reports Reuters. After weakening to a Category 2 as it passed over land, it is now a Category 3 storm again, with maximum winds of 115mph.
- Communications have been cut with dozens of municipalities in Puerto Rico, meaning the true scale of the devastation is still unknown, especially in the southeast of the island, where the storm hit first, the AP reports. So far, the only death reported has been that of a man hit by flying lumber.
- FEMA administrator William Long tells the Washington Post that the government is preparing to help Puerto Rico and St. Croix, the US Virgin Island hardest hit by Maria. "Right now we're in wait-and-see mode," he says. "We know that St. Croix took a tremendous hit, and we know obviously Puerto Rico took the brunt of the storm. Once the weather clears and the seas die down, we'll be in full operation."
- The mayor of Catano in northern Puerto Rico says 80% of the homes in one neighborhood were destroyed and it will take "months and months and months and months" before they can recover from the storm, the Guardian reports. Rossello said Wednesday that many homes had "no chance," though those built after stricter building codes were introduced in 2011 could survive the winds.
- In Dominica, which suffered a direct hit from the storm earlier this week, authorities say conditions are dire, the New York Times reports. At least 14 people were killed and Maria destroyed many people's stockpiles of food as well as cut off power and running water.
- Florida is not in much danger this time around, but Maria may still pose a danger to the mainland US, CNN reports. Forecasters say the storm's current track does not have it hitting the East Coast, but it is too early to rule it out. The storm will definitely cause high surf and dangerous rip currents along much of the coast.
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